The proposed rule would reduce a school’s obligations to prevent and address sexual harassment and assault. This change would be a departure from standards that have historically governed the Department of Education’s enforcement of Title IX.
The proposed changes would place students, particularly LGBT students, at risk of increased levels of harassment and assault. The changes would also threaten to undermine the safety of school climates by reducing the obligations of schools to prevent and address the harassment in effective ways.
The comment addresses how the proposed changes would undermine protections for all students in schools, particularly LGBT students. Under the proposed regulations, schools would be required to address harassment only if specified officials have “actual knowledge” of its occurrence. Further, the proposed regulations state that schools are only required to address sexual harassment that is so severe and pervasive that it reaches a level that would subject the school to damages liability under Title IX, and must only address sexual harassment in a way that is not “deliberately indifferent.” These changes reflect a substantial weakening of current standards and are contrary to Title IX’s goal of creating a safe and equitable learning environment for students Research shows that discrimination, harassment, and violence against LGBT students remains pervasive and is damaging to their health, wellbeing, and education.